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Defense After Nurse Is Arrested

TempA nurse at a Utah hospital was arrested for disobeying an officer's request, and everyone seems to be apologizing. An officer asked Alex Wubbels to draw blood from a man who was unconscious, and she refused. Wubbels said, in order to draw blood, the patient would need to be under arrest, and she would need to see a warrant. She said she had authority from hospital administrators to maintain her position.

The police officer, Jeff L. Payne, became angry and said she would be arrested if she didn't comply. And then he followed through while Wubbels screamed for help. It seems that Officer Payne's anger may have impaired his judgment.

Statements from the Salt Lake City major and the chief of police offer apologies for the incident:

Mayor Jackie Biskupski:

“Like many of you, I watched the video of police officers interacting with University of Utah Medical Center nurse Alex Wubbles for the first time through the media late yesterday. What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my Administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department. I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbles for what she has been through for simply doing her job.

There is currently an Internal Affairs investigation examining the actions, and the Civilian Review Board is conducting a parallel investigation. I have reiterated to Chief Brown that I expect the highest level of professionalism and integrity from his team. I have also instructed Chief Brown to conduct a thorough review of all policies and trainings to ensure respect for all individuals, in all situations. Following the incident Salt Lake City Police Department command met with hospital administration. We immediately changed policies that may have been a factor in this encounter, and the officer’s duties have been modified.

I take these incidences very seriously. Since I took office, I have been working with Salt Lake City Police Department to increase our use of de-escalation techniques and we have had great success, and this incident is a troubling set back to those efforts. No medical professional in Salt Lake City should be hindered from performing their duties, and certainly not be fearful of the police officers they so often partner with to save lives.”

Chief Mike Brown:

“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer and Ms. Wubbles. I am sad at the rift this has caused between law-enforcement and the nurses we work so closely with. I want to be clear, we take this very seriously. Immediate steps were taken and within 12 hours, body cam footage was reviewed and an internal affairs investigation started. We've looked at the actions that took place, the policies that could have prevented it, and the training that must be done. Within 24 hours of this incident, Salt Lake City Police Department took steps to ensure this will never happen again. We met with hospital CEO and COO, Nursing Management Team, their legal representation team, and University of Utah Chief Brophy. 

Most notable of all these conversations were that we apologized for the incident and promised to find a solution. Additionally, our policy management team continues to work closely with the hospital staff on improved policies and training. 

To date, we have suspended the officer from the blood draw program. We have already replaced our blood draw policy with a new policy. All remaining officers on the blood draw program have reviewed, and are operating under the new policy and protocol.

It is my sincere desire to get back to a very cooperative, respectful, and friendly relationship with our “brothers and sisters in white” we work so closely with. Salt Lake City Police Officers have a very soft spot in our hearts for all medical professionals. We know that if we are ever hurt in the line of duty, it is their caring hands that will perhaps save our lives one day. 

I believe we can learn from mistakes and from building strong relationships with everyone we work with and serve. By doing that we become a stronger police department.” 

In addition, Mayor Jackie Biskupski apologized during a news conference and announced an internal investigation. Biskupski also said they met with hospital administrators and changed some policies. Police Chief Mike Brown also apologized  and said they would put steps in place to make sure this type of incident doesn't happen again.  

Discussion:

  • How effective are the apologies from the mayor and police chief? What works well, and what could be improved?
  • How well did they answer questions? What were their best responses?
  • In what ways did the nurse demonstrate courage? What risks did she take to stand by her position?
  • How did she also demonstrate integrity?